BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser
There’s a saying that goes “promises are made to be broken.” This most likely refers to the fact most promises are often difficult to keep.
During this week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0,” McGarrett finds that often a promise is more than just a unspoken vow — it can sometimes save a life and give someone purpose. Something to believe in. Something to fight for. Much like the oath McGarrett keeps to his SEAL brother Freddie Hart (Alan Ritchson) by returning to North Korea to bring him back to his family.
It may have taken McG three years, high-level negotiations and putting his Navy and Five-0 careers on the line, but he is one who doesn’t believe that a promise he has made can ever be broken.
In Hawaiian, “ʻōlelo” means “language, speech or statement,” so the episode title, “ʻŌlelo Paʻa” which means, “promise,” seems to be based on the idea that a promise is spoken aloud so others will hold you to your word.
For McGarrett, when he makes a promise, it would take more than a hostile country and being outgunned and outmanned to stop him from keeping his word to a friend. Even if it means heading to North Korea — regardless of the fact that Kim Jong-un might see two Navy officers sneaking into his country as an act of war — all to find his friend.
This episode was promoted as a prequel to the pilot episode, and as some of you may know, that episode also started in North Korea with McGarrett transporting prisoner Anton Hesse (played by Norman Reedus, a few months before he entered the zombie apocalypse in “The Walking Dead”). Anton’s brother, Victor, was tracking his brother’s movements (in order to kill McGarrett and free his brother) and in the ensuing battle, McG is forced to kill Anton.
In turn, Victor kills McG’s father, Jack, who Victor was holding hostage. It was a nice treat for the scene between McG and Anton was re-used in this episode. I had forgotten that Anton was the one who said to McGarrett, “Funny, you don’t look Hawaiian.”
Yet the events in “ʻŌlelo Paʻa” not only take place in present day, but also in two different flashback scenes. One flashback happens in 2000 when McG and Hart attend BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training, and then in 2010 when they are tasked to apprehend Anton Hesse in North Korea; the flashback scenes happened all before McG’s showdown with the Hesse brothers, international arms dealers McGarrett had been tracking for five years. He thought Victor’s execution of his father was related to his tracking them as a Navy SEAL — not because of their ties to Wo Fat — as we found out later in the season.
The present day scenes were mostly with McG and Catherine Rollins (Michelle Borth), who acted as McG’s aid in his mission to bring home the remains of his SEAL brother. Little did she know this would include a kidnapping, a fractured rib, a gunfight, being captured and setting up a booby trap in order to escape (poor Vince Shin had to be the one to remind us why Steven loves grenades).
She didn’t seem to blink an eye.
“It only hurts when I breathe,” she says at one point during the episode, as if she could stop doing that as much as McGarrett could. If nothing else, she held her own with McGarrett, which explains why they seem to really care and love each other. She’s a tough girl. You’d have to be to hang out with McG — or you’d at least have to have a much bigger gun.
This episode also featured a revelation about Michelle Borth’s character as we got to see how the Cath and McG relationship started. All we had seen before this season was that Cath was an intel contact, as well as a romantic link, that McG kept from his Navy days. But we know from the bromantic scene between Hart and McG before they dropped out of the sky into North Korea that Lt. Rollins has been in McG’s life for at least three years. And it seems as if he’s taken Freddie’s assessment of Cath being “the real thing” to heart.
This week’s episode was highly anticipated for many reasons. Any chance to see McGarrett in uniform, as well as more information about his life before “Five-0” is something fans are dying to see. I thought the episode was an interesting meld of flashbacks, as well as a good way to bring back two very popular characters, Joe White (Terry O’Quinn) and Frank Bama (Jimmy Buffett).
Buffett seems almost too perfect as the former Vietnam pilot who now spends his days drinking snake blood and rice wine and hoping for some pretty lady to show up so he can explain what “aphrodisiac” means in English. O’Quinn plays another great character, and I’m glad he came back even for a short stint as McG’s SEAL mentor.
Whatever issues McG and Joe had last season, seems to have been ironed out, as McG reaches out to him for help in their unauthorized mission to find Hart’s true remains. It would be nice to see him return in other episodes next season.
I know many folks will complain they didn’t see enough of the team, but there were a few moments — Danno promising McG a huge plate of wings from Side Street Inn when he returned from his trip, the team around the magic table ready to help McG in his unauthorized stop into North Korea, and then quite poignantly at the end when they are present at Hart’s long awaited funeral. The stunts were pretty amazing; we see McG and Hart dropping out of an airplane, a parachute drop, a car crash, throwing knives, and two gunfights (one in present day and one in flashback). Lots of action and movement really helped keep up the pace and tension in this week’s episode.
The ending was a tearjerker for me, but I don’t suppose anyone can watch a military funeral and not be moved by the ceremony and tradition portrayed by a 21 gun salute and the presentation of a U.S. flag to the widow. It would have been appropriate for McG to slap his SEAL trident on the casket, but I didn’t really see a moment for them to capture that. He had too much to do in order to fulfill his promise to his SEAL brother.
The promise McGarrett made to his friend wasn’t just that he would return to get him, or that he would take care of his family; those were all unspoken promises McGarrett made to Freddie. These are the same type of promises he has made to his fellow Navy shipmates, his SEAL brothers, and to his “Five-0” team. This is the kind of man McGarrett is, one who would would keep those promises even if he had to face a hard road or even, risk his life.
But the promise the title alluded to was one Freddie made McG say out loud, that he would tell Hart’s unborn daughter her Daddy loved her. And when he did, I doubt there were many who were watching who didn’t get at least a little lump in their throats.
Perhaps the episode was a little hard to believe with all that is going on in North Korea, or perhaps a little too sentimental for some, but I did appreciate how they worked to tie McGarrett’s past to his present. And it better confirms the promise McGarrett has made to the “Five-0” team, that he is here to serve and protect Hawaii no matter what the cost. It is a promise that will not be broken.
Redux Side Note:
As a tribute to our active duty Navy sailors and officers, two real life Navy Captains played themselves in this week’s episode. Capt. Jeffery James, commander at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) played the Naval officer who hands the funeral flag to the widow. Capt. Sal Aguilera, Navy Region Hawaii command chaplain at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), played the Chaplain who conducted the flag folding honors during the funeral services.
Next Monday, April 22, will be the last repeat of “Hawaii Five-0” before the race toward the season finale begins. We’ll be having a “H50 Fan Wrap Party” at Big City Diner Pearlridge that night starting at 7:00 p.m. to watch “Mōhai” and to celebrate the end of shooting for season three.